'Why couldn't we use paper bags?' Seven questions answered about the plastic bag ban

Single-use plastic bags have now been banned in all Woolworths stores as the retail giant tries to dramatically reduce the amount of plastic in its stores – but there’s still some questions that need answering.

Woolworths and Coles last July joined a push to rid Australia of disposable plastic bags and set a deadline of June 30, 2018 for their stores to stop offering them to shoppers.

With Woolies pushing their date forward to June 20, shoppers are now also being urged “not to bag” the staff during the transition. Coles will stop giving out free plastic bags on July 1.

“While we understand that some customers may be frustrated by this change, there is no excuse for abusive or violent behaviour towards retail staff,” SDA National Secretary Gerard Dwyer said.

With the future of grocery shopping set to change forever, Yahoo7 News has answered the seven questions you want to know about the plastic bag ban.

What are the new alternate bags?

The new bag range on offer at Woolies. Source: Woolworths
Some of the new Tote bags, designed by Australian school students, that will be on offer throughout the year. Source: Coles

For Coles and Woolworths it is the single-use grey plastic bags that are being phased out, but the clear fresh produce bags, which are used for fruit and vegetables will remain.

Both supermarkets will offer 15c reusable bags, which will be made from at least 80 per cent recycled plastics.

Both supermarkets will also introduce a series of other options including biodegradable, foldable, tote and chiller bags.

Why couldn’t we use paper bags? 

The Woolworths boss said brown paper bags weren’t a viable alternative. Source: Getty

The prospect of using brown paper bags appears to be a more appealing alternative for some shoppers, but Woolworth CEO Brad Banducci insists it’s simply not a viable option.

“It’s the single use bag that’s the problem,” Mr Banducci told Sunrise co-host David Koch.

“They tear and you cannot use it multiple times, a reusable bag for 15 cents, you can use it at least 40 times… that is the key.”

What about the people that use bags as bin liners?

In the lead up to the plastic bag ban, many shoppers have voiced their frustrations that it will also spell the end for their makeshift bin liners.

Mr Banducci said most of those single-use bags that were used as bin liners would end up harming the environment.

Source: Twitter
Those who use their single use plastic bags for bin liners will need to find another option.

“We have been working very hard to give you the right choices at the right prices in our grocery aisle.

“We have a good biodegradable bag that’s now available, you’ll see a lot more delivery of value in compostable items in our aisles.”

He has not addressed the concern that the ban would lead to an increase buying bin liners.

Did customers want the ban?

While Woolworths and Coles have proudly promoted their own respective wars on plastic, Mr Banducci said it was the customers who wanted to see them gone as well.

We have done a lot of research on what our customers want to see and one of them is leadership in the area of the environment,” he said.

However, not everyone is buying into Woolworth’s eco-friendly approach, accusing the supermarket giant of overusing plastic in other areas.

But Mr Banducci said the matter was not as straight forward as simply removing plastic packaging from fruit and vegetables.

“We are working very hard to take out plastic from fruits and vegetables… but we’ve got to be very careful in taking plastic out, we don’t compromise the quality of freshness,” he told reporters at a press conference on Wednesday morning.

“We are also phasing out plastic straws out of aisles, 150 million straws will no longer be in the environment from June this year.”

How much will a shopping/reusable bag cost?

The reusable ‘bag for good’ will be on offer for 99c at Woolworths. Source: Woolworths

Woolworths shoppers who don’t bring their own bags to the store will be able to purchase a green reusable bag for 15c

In addition to the new 15c reusable bag, Woolies will also offer the 99c ‘bag for good’, the 99c foldable bag and the $2.49 chiller bag.

Coles is also introducing a new range of Community Bags which include $1 tote bags, $2 shoulder bags, $2.50 chiller bags, $3 jute bags.

Customers who shop at Coles will be able to purchase Better Bags which are 100 per cent recyclable through Red Cycle bins in Coles stores.

A portion of sales from these particular bags will go to charities – including Clean Up Australia, Little Athletics Australia, SecondBite and Guide Dogs Australia.

Is this a money-making proposition?

Woolies CEO Brad Banducci insists the plastic bag ban has nothing to do with profits. Source: AAP

If shoppers choose not to bring, or forget, their own bags, they face the alternative of purchasing biodegradable ones from the supermarkets, but Mr Banducci insists that option is not driven by profits.

“It isn’t a money-making proposition, nothing could be further from the truth,” he said

In an effort to dispel that myth, he said the supermarket giant has also introduced their 99 cent foldable bag, in addition to the 15 cent green bag, that has a lifetime guarantee.

“All profits from that bag will go back to Junior Landcare and really help communities in Australia build more activism by the youth around doing good things for the environment,” Mr Banducci added.

How will the plastic bag ban help the environment?

Greenpeace spokeswoman Zoe Deans said the bans should dramatically reduce plastic waste, particularly on Australia’s coastline.

“It takes a bit of getting used to and remembering to pop your re-usable bag into your handbag or backpack to make sure you have one on hand,” she said.

“But we do think people understand the pervasiveness of plastic and that it takes hundreds of years to break down in the environment.”

Greenpeace believes the ban will dramatically reduce plastic waste.

For Woolworths alone the move will see 3.2 billion single-use bags out of circulation each year as the supermarkets continue to work towards a more sustainable future.

Bans on single-use plastic bags in several European countries since 2003 have led to a 30 per cent drop in plastic bags found in waters off the continent, according to a study published in the journal Science of the Total Environment in April.